To Introduce CNMI’s first Public Bus Transit System, Coordinate Climate Change and Invasive Species Efforts, Improve Government Efficiency, Public Safety, and Quality of Life in Saipan and the Northern Islands
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 24, 2016) – Today the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina approved $1.4 million in grant assistance for fiscal year 2016 to support initiatives of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The funds are allocated from the Office of Insular Affairs’ (OIA) Technical Assistance Program (TAP) and the Maintenance Assistance Program (MAP).
“I am pleased to support Governor Ralph Torres and the people of the Northern Marianas in a variety of projects that impact quality of life issues, promote government efficiency, and improve climate change adaptation and invasive species coordination.”
The various TAP grants awarded for FY 2016, including one MAP grant follows:
CNMI Fixed Flex (Bus) Express Pilot Program - $344,293 to the Commonwealth Office of Transportation Authority to implement the CNMI’s first public transit system. Funds will be used to acquire one medium-duty bus and cover associated operating expenses to run public transportation service along the southern end of the business district of Garapan to the Northern Marianas College, servicing key points along the way. This first route has the highest population density of the entire Fixed-Flex System. The objective is to provide a public transportation alternative to CNMI residents and visitors, reducing traffic congestion, carbon emissions, accidents, and fuel costs while improving air quality.
Beach Restoration Study in Garapan - $150,000 to the U.S. Army Corps to conduct a technical study of Garapan shoreline erosion that will result in a report with recommendations and cost estimates for future restoration actions. The study, which projects shoreline usefulness and function out 50 years, will take into account how climate change and sea-level rise will impact the project and design.
Climate Change and Invasive Species Coordinators - $286,000 to the Bureau of Coastal and Environmental Quality and the Department of Lands and Natural Resources to better coordinate climate change and invasive species policies and initiatives across CNMI agencies and in coordination with federal and regional officials and initiatives.
Online Portal for CNMI Government Services - $255,578 will be provided to the Department of Commerce to establish an online portal to streamline government services for residents in the territory. The online portal will facilitate social services provision, tax e-filing, business license and tax filing, driver’s license issuance and renewal. The portal will serve as a virtual one stop help center for the CNMI government.
Regional Weights and Measurements Capacity Building Professional Development - $88,977 to the Department of Commerce Division of Enforcement and Compliance for building capacity in the CNMI and the region on meeting the requirements of the weights and measures standards and regulations established by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. Funds will be used for a regional conference, including training and certification of weights and measures inspectors, and the implementation of new equipment and tools to allow for uniformity of measurement techniques for the CNMI and the region. More than 6,000 forty-foot containers arrive at the Saipan seaport each year and the CNMI estimates $3 million in annual losses to fraud due to inaccurate weights and measurements.
Emergency Vehicle - $150,000 to the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services - to purchase a fully equipped ambulance for emergency medical service operations on Saipan.
Maintenance Assistance Program
Upgrade Capacity for Northern Islands Telecommunications - $98,630 for the acquisition of reliable telecommunication units to replace and upgrade dilapidated single sideband radios (acquired in 1985) with antenna units for the residents and community workers living in the Northern Islands, including Pagan, Anatahan, Agrihan, and Alamagan. Telecommunication Units will be used to inform officials in Saipan on climate change and weather related activities, military exercises, border control, potential criminal activities, and other emergency needs as arise. Funds will also be used to procure photovoltaic panels to run the telecommunication units. All-terrain vehicles will also be acquired to support transportation and emergency needs.
The Department of the Interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance provided to the Freely Associated States of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. The Office of Insular Affairs mission is to foster economic opportunities, promote government efficiency, and improve the quality of life for the people of the insular areas.